Former executives accuse Apple of ignoring supplier labor abuses

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014


A new report quotes former Apple executives as saying that the company has known about some "labor abuses" in supplier factories for years without requiring that they be addressed.



The New York Times published a follow-up report to the profile on Apple's overseas manufacturing operations that appeared last week. The publication examined the "human costs" that go into the iPad and other such devices, drawing upon interviews with several dozen "current or former employees and contractors, including a half-dozen current or former executives with firsthand knowledge of Apple’s supplier responsibility group."



"We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on,” said a former Apple executive who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice.”



Earlier this month, Apple released its annual supplier responsibility report, claiming that its zero-tolerance policy for underage labor is "the toughest in the electronics industry." The iPhone maker conducted 229 audits last year, an 80 percent increase from 2010, and discovered six active and 13 historical cases of underage labor at five facilities. CEO Tim Cook said in an email to employees that the supplier responsibility program has brought about "dramatic improvements in hiring practices" by Apple's suppliers.



The company announced this month that it was the first technology company to join the Fair Labor Association and had agreed to submit to independent checks by the association of supply chain facilities. Also of note, Apple for the first time released a list of its suppliers as part of its annual report.



"We continue to expand our program to reach deeper into our supply base, and this year we added more detailed and specialized audits that focus on safety and the environment," Apple's report read.



Apple claims to require suppliers to fix problems within 90 days of an audit and institute changes to prevent them from happening again. The company also says it will terminate its relationship with repeat offenders. But, multiple former executives disagreed with the company's assertions that it holds rigid standards for its partners, according to Wednesday's report.











“If you see the same pattern of problems, year after year, that means the company’s ignoring the issue rather than solving it,” said another former Apple executive with direct knowledge of the company's supplier responsibility group. “Noncompliance is tolerated, as long as the suppliers promise to try harder next time. If we meant business, core violations would disappear.”



Li Mingqi, a former manager at Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn, has alleged that Apple didn't pay any attention to worker conditions after reaching agreements with its partner. Li, however, has gripes with Foxconn, as he is suing his former employer over the conditions of his termination last April.



“Once the deal is set and Foxconn becomes an authorized Apple supplier, Apple will no longer give any attention to worker conditions or anything that is irrelevant to its products,” he said.

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Foxconn denied his claims, stating that “both Foxconn and Apple take the welfare of our employees very seriously.”



Interestingly enough, Li helped manage the same Chengdu factory where an explosion occurred last May. The blast, which took place at a polishing plant for the iPad 2, killed four workers and injured several others. A Hong Kong-based advocacy group had reportedly sent a warning to Apple about the dangers of aluminum dust in Chengdu just weeks before the incident.



Last December, a second explosion occurred, this time at a facility owned by a subsidiary of Pegatron. Aluminum dust was again the cause of the explosion, with roughly 60 workers injured by it.



But, Apple did say in its 2001 supplier responsibility report that the causes of the two explosions were different. According to the company's report, Apple has audited all of its suppliers engaged in polishing aluminum and now is requiring better safety measures.



Former Apple employees pointed to the company's notorious secrecy as a barrier to improving working conditions at supplier's facilities.



“We’ve had this conversation hundreds of times,” a former executive in Apple’s supplier responsibility group told the Times. “There is a genuine, companywide commitment to the code of conduct. But taking it to the next level and creating real change conflicts with secrecy and business goals, and so there’s only so far we can go.”



Tipsters said they were forbidden from interacting with outside groups. “There’s a real culture of secrecy here that influences everything,” the former executive said.



The company has taken steps in recent months to be more open with environmental and labor rights groups. In November, it was revealed that the company had met with several Chinese environmental groups to address their concerns. Apple's recent decision to release its supplier list is also a step toward them, as a number of offending suppliers that groups had accused Apple of partnering with have turned out not to work with the company.

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“We’re trying really hard to make things better,” a source said. “But most people would still be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from.”



Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs asserted in 2010 that the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China was "not a sweatshop," noting that the facilities include restaurants and movie theaters in addition to the manufacturing operations, but a former Apple executive told the Times that supplier and manufacturer conditions would be disturbing to most people.



Foxconn came under scrutiny that year after a series of worker suicides. The issue recently made headlines again after plant workers at a facility producing Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming console threatened mass suicide over a dispute with factory management.

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Comments

  • daramouthedaramouthe Posts: 36member
    And now these former employees are just mentioning this information. Sounds fishy that they would start spilling these secrets right after Apple agrees to work with the FLA.
  • galbigalbi Posts: 968member
    Why am I not surprised?



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Daramouthe View Post


    And now these former employees are just mentioning this information. Sounds fishy that they would start spilling these secrets right after Apple agrees to work with the FLA.



    They have for years but the media didnt want to hear a thing about their cash cow (clicks generating -->revenue generating) Apple.
  • suddenly newtonsuddenly newton Posts: 13,052member
    Quote:

    Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs asserted in 2010 that the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China was "not a sweatshop," noting that the facilities include restaurants and movie theaters in addition to the manufacturing operations, but a former Apple executive told the Times that supplier and manufacturer conditions would be disturbing to most people.



    What Steve didn't know is that the restaurants served Taco Bell quality (Grade "D" or "medically ingestible") meat and the movie theater showed nothing but the worst Adam Sandler movies (that would otherwise be sitting on an idle Netflix server collecting dust) on a continuous loop. It's believed to be the cause of many Foxconn suicides, or failing that, a sense of empathy from Chinese workers for how some Americans spend Saturday nights.
  • daramouthedaramouthe Posts: 36member
    Though it's kind of unfair to blame just Apple. Pretty much almost all eletronics get there stuff done were its cheap. I guess only time will tell whether this will affect Apple in a big horrible way.
  • jlaselvajlaselva Posts: 13member
    Deleted.
  • patranuspatranus Posts: 366member
    So cowards are willing to make accusations without providing evidence or their manes.

    What a joke.



    Give us name and dates.



    I claim that Steve Jobs crapped gold. Where is my New York Times article?
  • ajitmdajitmd Posts: 365member
    It is about time Apple spent the $Bs in cash to built its own factories right here in the US. There are automated machine tools that can produce all kinds of glass structures, screws, circuit boards, etc as well as assemble them. It is an oxymoron to give $Bs to Samsung plus the designs of the microprocessors so they can build them in Texas. It looks like the entire destiny of Apple is dependent on the tender mercies of China.



    Tax laws here need to be changed to favor domestic manufacturing. WTO? Right... dump that. We need fair trade.
  • mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 6,813member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Patranus View Post


    So cowards are willing to make accusations without providing evidence or their manes.

    What a joke.



    Give us name and dates.



    I claim that Steve Jobs crapped gold. Where is my New York Times article?



    True. Now what's even more pitiful is to blame Apple for a Chinese Corporations bylaws and worker right conditions--China is responsible for them.
  • rbryanhrbryanh Posts: 263member
    Stop regurgitating Apple's self serving press releases. A a "zero tolerance policy regarding child labor"? Sounds like Google and "Don't be evil."



    Why listen to corporatese when it's possible to listen to someone who's been there?



    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radi...-apple-factory
  • ronboronbo Posts: 669member
    Anonymous: (adj.) A condition or state frequently sought by former employees, in order to prevent the closely-related term "disgruntled" from being applied instead.
  • bertpbertp Posts: 274member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Daramouthe View Post


    Though it's kind of unfair to blame just Apple. Pretty much almost all eletronics get there stuff done were its cheap. I guess only time will tell whether this will affect Apple in a big horrible way.



    I would add that posters in this forum cannot easily determine the truth of the allegations. We are outside of a country that has tight information controls.
  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by Patranus View Post




    What a joke.








    This is no joke.
  • cycomikocycomiko Posts: 716member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Daramouthe View Post


    Though it's kind of unfair to blame just Apple. Pretty much almost all eletronics get there stuff done were its cheap. I guess only time will tell whether this will affect Apple in a big horrible way.



    If you read the article from the other day -



    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/bu...pagewanted=all



    It aint all dollars, and in terms of apple. They are the ones making the massive profits, with only minimal "apple tax" therefore they are making savings across the supply clain. Somebody is getting squeezed, and it is not Apple. Surely a little part of the 98billion is a worthwhile investment in the people who are making these products? Apple appear happy to spend more than the remainder of the industry to create 'green' products. A healthy supply chain is a great marketing tool.
  • dickprinterdickprinter Posts: 1,060member


    That scripted piece of crap?



    The truth is 99.9999% of those workers are thankful of Apple for their jobs. Their standard of living has increased tremendously since having worked in the rice paddies for a third of the pay.
  • kevinn206kevinn206 Posts: 117member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Patranus View Post


    So cowards are willing to make accusations without providing evidence or their manes.

    What a joke.



    Give us name and dates.



    I claim that Steve Jobs crapped gold. Where is my New York Times article?



    A coward would've kept his or her mouth shut. If I know a company is doing something unethical or illegal, I would rather report it and stay anonymous as well. Maybe these former Apple employees and executives see Apple as a hypocrite to join the FLA while turning a blind eye years before. It's kinda like Google's "Don't be evil."
  • slurpyslurpy Posts: 4,469member
    What do these 'past executives' have to gain by bring this up now? To try to bring bad PR to apple? I have trouble believing their doing it out of some altruistic motive. Seems like they have some personal vendettas from their career, and are exploiting this issue to try and damage their previous employers. And yes, they are cowards, because they did not identify themselves, are anonymous, and did not provide specifics nor the opportunity for people to question them further. There's nothing gutsy or brave about throwing these accusations from the shadows.
  • slurpyslurpy Posts: 4,469member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by KevinN206 View Post


    Maybe these former Apple employees and executives see Apple as a hypocrite to join the FLA while turning a blind eye years before. It's kinda like Google's "Don't be evil."



    Possibly the stupidet thing I've ever read. So, if one improves oneself, he's automatically a hypocrite because he is inconsistent with his prior behaviour? That has nothing to do with hypocrisy. Its called changing things for the better. Yeah, I guess the logical thing for Tim Cook to do would have been not to join the FLA because they historically were not part of the group, and continuing to turn a blind eye and not improve a damn thing so as to not risk being a 'hypocrite'. Is that what you do in your life when you find out you're wrong- double down and dig in, in order to remain consistent?
  • dickprinterdickprinter Posts: 1,060member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post


    This is no joke.



    Yeah, this is no joke.



    And BTW...I just typed my post on a device made in a China-based factory with the very same working conditions as Apple's assemblers....so I'm nothing but a hypocrite.



    Signed,

    ZZZ



    \
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dickprinter View Post


    That scripted piece of crap?



    The truth is 99.9999% of those workers are thankful of Apple for their jobs. Their standard of living has increased tremendously since having worked in the rice paddies for a third of the pay.



    It seems that mostly the same people that state Apple isn't paying the Chinese workers enough are the same ones that want Apple to stop all foreign production. Do they really think putting hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers out of Jobs is better than no jobs at all or have they simply not thought about the repercussions?
  • kevinn206kevinn206 Posts: 117member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post


    Possibly the stupidet thing I've ever read. So, if one improves oneself, he's automatically a hypocrite because he is inconsistent with his prior behaviour? That has nothing to do with hypocrisy. Its called changing things for the better. Yeah, I guess the logical thing for Tim Cook to do would have been not to join the FLA because they historically were not part of the group, and continuing to turn a blind eye and not improve a damn thing so as to not risk being a 'hypocrite'. Is that what you do in your life when you find out you're wrong- double down and dig in, in order to remain consistent?



    I'm just speculating what some people may think even AFTER a company chooses to correct itself. Some people, like these ex-Apple employees, may see this as nothing more than damage-control and not in the interest of its employees. It's certainly not what I think. I applaud that Apple is actively pursuing better working conditions.
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